National Oyster Day: Washington leads the way in addressing ocean acidification to protect oysters
Today is National Oyster Day and oysters from the Pacific Northwest are a valuable part of the West Coast shellfish industry. Unfortunately, for the last 12 years, farmers in our area have had to deal with the effects of ocean acidification reducing oyster production. Acidification happens when carbon pollution from the air is absorbed by the water causing the pH of the water to decrease.
Oysters are filter feeders moving water over their gills to trap plankton, their food source. They also collect other things when feeding, like algae and other particles. It has been estimated that an individual oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. That means that where there are healthy oysters, there is cleaner water. Ocean acidification creates a cascade of negative impacts starting with our shellfish and other fisheries leading all the way up to marine mammals and humans!
The good news is that Washington is leading the way in addressing this very serious issue. The Washington Ocean Acidification Center, created by the Washington State Legislature in 2013, is bringing people together from multiple disciplines to work toward understanding and addressing this serious environmental issue. Our partner, The University of Washington, is home to the center and two university professors are co-directors.
Every year, the Washington Ocean Acidification Center holds a Science Symposium that invites local experts to present new research results regarding the acidification of Washington’s waters. As recently as late last year, Washington took the fight to a global scale by joining the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification which includes all of the West Coast states and New York in the US, British Columbia and Quebec in Canada, several Native American tribes, France, Chile, and Nigeria.
We’re proud to support our partners at University of Washington with this global effort because healthy oceans mean healthy people.